Of last year’s eight early enrollees on the Tennessee football team, six saw significant playing time and five combined for 33 starts in the 2010 season.
Those are the kind of numbers that motivated a number of UT’s early enrollees for the 2011 season, as six of the Vols’ current 20 commitments are slated to begin the academic side of their student-athlete careers today for the start of spring semester.
Quarterback Justin Worley (Rock Hill, S.C.), tight end Brendan Downs (Bristol), center Mack Crowder (Bristol), wide receiver Vincent Dallas (Ellenwood, Ga.), defensive back Justin Coleman (Brunswick, Ga.) and offensive guard Marcus Jackson (Vero Beach, Fla.) all are considered active students, according to UT’s student database.
One name that wasn’t found, however, was that of Eddrick Loften, a 2010 signee who failed to qualify but said in October he planned to be on campus for spring semester. Loften (Irving, Texas) also has posted numerous messages on his Facebook profile about an impending move to Knoxville, but it’s currently unknown whether he has qualified and eligible to join the team for spring practice.
UT spokesman Jimmy Stanton said Tuesday he could not confirm any of the early enrollees until they actually attended class. Loften, a former four-star prospect at safety, could not be reached for comment.
Downs, Dallas and Crowder were on campus last month and participated in a handful of bowl practices before the team departed to Nashville for its final preparations at the Music City Bowl.
Coleman, a four-star athlete who is considered by scouting services as the highest-ranked of the incoming group, was encouraged by his former high school coach, Victor Floyd, to enroll early.
“You can go ahead and get acclimated to school and the college schedule and all these things in the offseason,” Floyd said in a December interview. “You hit the ground running in August.”
Worley, the 2010 Gatorade National Player of the Year, said he doesn’t expect to start eight games like Matt Simms or five games like Tyler Bray just because he’s arriving earlier than the majority of the 2011 signing class.
“I know I’m going to have to compete for a job, and that’s kind of why I want to get there earlier,” Worley said in an October interview. “I can go and start there early and compete and get in the weight room.”
Offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James benefited most from enrolling early last year, as he started all 13 games at right tackle. Fullback Channing Fugate started five of the final six games and defensive end Corey Miller picked up two starts throughout the season. Defensive end Jacques Smith did not start but received plenty of playing time throughout his freshman season.
The two players who didn’t benefit much from the extra time on campus — in terms of playing time — were wide receiver Matt Milton, who saw sparse action throughout the season, and Ted Meline, who was converted from wide receiver to cornerback and did not play in 2010.
Stocker Headed To Senior Bowl: Tight end Luke Stocker will serve as UT’s lone representative at the Under Armour Senior Bowl, which is set for Jan. 29 in Mobile, Ala., the bowl announced Tuesday.
Stocker, who pondered entering the NFL draft after his junior season, set career highs this year with 39 receptions for 417 yards. He caught at least one pass in all 13 games this season and wrapped up his UT career with 85 catches for 956 yards and eight touchdowns.
Stocker will play on the South team and will be joined by fellow SEC tight ends D.J. Williams (Arkansas) and Preston Dial (Alabama).
He is projected as the second-best senior tight end available behind Williams for the 2011 NFL draft by CBSSports.com and is slotted by the website to be selected in the second or third round.